There Are Too Many Actors … “Who Say They Are Actors”
Okay, I got your attention. But there is genuine concern that our culture of “get it quick” often derails the path to true craft and expert skills that take time, patience and consistent practice. To respectfully call ourselves professionals, we have to look at how much real work we are putting into it. Here are some distinctions between the genuine WORKING ACTORS I am privileged to watch or help, and those who can only “TALK THE WALK”.
After alot of observation, I would say:
Those who “Say They Are Actors”:
- Have never done a play or been in front of an audience for any length of time (often resulting in not knowing how to repeat a performance for more than 2 takes when needed)
- Have never taken a speech or diction class, even though its been suggested more than once and yes, clarity on camera counts
- Just try to be “in the moment” as themselves with no consideration for what the story needs (is it period or genre? is there a dialect involved, what’s your function in the scene)
- Have never heard of Uta Hagen’s “First 6 Steps”, Meisners’ emphasis on actions and tactics, Michael Chekhov’s use of “psychological gesture”, Stella Adler’s use of “As If” substitutions, or of Stanislavsky’s terms “Superobjective”, “Objective” or “Intention”.
- Say they have no money for acting class, but have just enough for networking and cold reading classes where they get 10 minutes to work but not improve significantly.
- Don’t call a coach or good actor friend to work on a big role opportunity
- Think holding the script and knowing the lines 80% is enough, and look down at the page often when lost. Even on the very first line.
- Have no idea how to rehearse alone but know how to wing it!
- Use the long waiting room time well to check all that email
- Think a “beat change” is a musical term.
- Think the business sucks alot, it’s ” who you know”, and is unfair.
where as I observe that
- Think like artists, study and reflect the human experience and the world around them
- Study and learn new craft at every stage of their career : voice, movement, dialects, dance, singing, new acting techniques, memorization skills, improv, Shakespeare. (From friends’ reports: Maggie Smith did vocal warmups every day with the company the year she worked at Stratford Shakespeare Festival and went to Alexander class regularly during the long run of Lettice and Lovage, Mark Rylance does 20 minutes of improv with the cast before any performance.)
- Create their own stories, heart projects and opportunities with good actors they met and trust in acting class
- Learn to write, edit, or do service with a theater or production company
- Read scripts/plays out loud with friends…alot
- Can hear and speak the rhythm of a writer the way a dancer hears it in the music and their body.
- Debate plays and movies profoundly, prickily, yes pretentiously at times, but passionately (i.e. Welles and O’Toole and others debate HAMLET: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97R83-KMhhc) and thus we learn from peers about what makes the story work or not. The BBC series “SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED” is a blissful examination of many of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays and parts by some of our finest actors:
- Enjoy doing research on their role and work on a script, not till they “get it right”, but til “they cannot get it wrong” and thus are confident at the audition
- Know how to rehearse alone -using tools, like self taping, Rehearsal 2 or a voice recorder to hear the dialogue
- Know some luck is involved and feel grateful when things fall their way and make the most of it.
- Hold the script in the audition, but secretly are 110% off book and maybe refer to it once.
- Meditate on the task at hand quietly in the waiting room
- Book because they gave a researched, rehearsed yet are free-now-to-be-in-the-moment, realized performance.
Commit to the Real Actor within you , and enjoy the creative journey!
Caryn West is an acting teacher, director and a coach who auditions and acts. She has taught on both coasts and is the only teacher cited on both coasts by Backstage polls as one of the “BEST AUDITION COACHES”. She has run Caryn’s Space for Actors since 1999.